Hey, you might have seen this post before. It was my first post as an author way back in September 30th, 2015. So why is it reposted? Because all 75 episodes of Bakuman are finally available on Hulu! So what are you waiting for? Just Do It!
When it comes to romance in anime, there seems to be two different paths that most shows follow. There are the shows that have long, slow developing, will-they-or-won’t-they romances that aren’t resolved until the end, and there are those shows where the relationship is established in the beginning or the middle. Good examples of the first path include Toradora, Kaichou wa Maid-samaand Gosick, while the recently finished Ore Monogatari, Kare Kano and “Say I Love You” are some that follow the second path. While many people prefer one way or the other, the relative merits of either path won’t be debated here. Instead, I’m here to present a relatively-overlooked anime with some romance that actually follows BOTH paths at the same time. It isn’t strictly a love story like the ones mentioned above, but it does have enough romance for me and is a personal favorite of mine: Bakuman.
Let’s get through the general information first. Bakuman is a 3 season anime of 25 episodes each, all made by J.C. Staff between 2010 and 2013. It’s probably better to describe it as one 75 episode long story, since each season continues where the last one left off. The manga the anime is based on was written by the creative team of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. You may be more familiar with their previous collaboration, Death Note.
14-year old students Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi are a talented artist, and creative writer respectively. It’s not until Takagi notices a book of Mashiro’s drawings that he asks Mashiro to team up to create manga together. At first Mashiro is reluctant but eventually gets roped into teaming with him when he learns from Takagi that his crush Azuki Miho is herself trying to become a Seiyuu/Voice Actor. Mashiro doesn’t know, but Miho has also had a crush on Mashiro for some time too. The two of them meet Miho to tell her that they’re going to make manga together. They promise that it will be so popular that an anime will be made, and that they will reserve a role for her to which Miho happily promises. In the moment, Mashiro blurts out without thinking, “If our dream comes true, will you marry me?”. To his utmost surprise, Miho says yes! But wait, only on the condition that they not see each other until their dream comes true. So,with the help of Takagi and Miho’s best friend Kaya Miyoshi, our journey to bring happiness to Miho and Mashiro begins!
This story does follow the general Shounen style of hard work and perseverance to overcome the challenges and obstacles that our main characters face. However, there is a huge focus on our characters, their relationships with each other, and their own growth both as mangaka and as young adults. Our main relationship square of Mashiro, Takagi, Miho and Miyoshi eventually branch out to meet and interact with other mangaka, editors, assistants, and other voice actors. And while the struggle and drama of being successful mangaka is the driving force of the show, there are a lot of laughs and antics. Especially from our side characters who give the show great balance. Particularly this dude: Niizuma Eiji:
Eiji acts as the main rival, but he also is a friend, confidante and mentor to our two leads. The relationship is more like a friendly rivalry that draws out the very best in Mashiro and Takagi. His voice (Props to Nobuhiko Okamoto) and his behavior on-screen caused him to be one of my favorite characters ever. Eiji steals the scene multiple times throughout the show:
While Niizuma Eiji is a stand out, our other characters also bring both light-hearted and heavy moments themselves. And indeed, the world of manga is not an easy one to get into. If you are at all interested in manga, (and I’m sure most of you are) Bakuman delves into the all the steps towards creating manga and the work that is necessary before a manga is even published. This is not Ef: a Tale of Memories, or Nozaki-kun to name a few examples where being a mangaka is tangentially related (No disrespect to those series). Bakuman goes in depth on manga including the process behind first getting to a publisher, the selection for entrance into a magazine like Shonen Jump, the difficulties in being serialized, and much more, all within the context of the ongoing story.
You might be wondering at this point where the two paths of romance mentioned in the beginning come into play here. Our first, the long romance where the status of the relationship is resolved in the end, is obviously Mashiro’s and Miho’s relationship. However since they’ve been paired up from the beginning, this isn’t done in the usual way. Though they are “together” in a sense, the fact that they can’t see each other gives the viewer that “will-they-or-won’t-they” feeling. The other path where relationships are established early, I won’t say for Spoilers, though I will say that there are several of these. This allows for some time with our couples with their own obstacles and high points.
The animation, as can be seen from Eiji up above, isn’t spectacular but it is crisp and clean. The manga written within this series is also particularly detailed and professional. Most of the music is also good but not great, but a special mention must be given to the voice actors who did a really fantastic job bringing each character to life. Indeed, some of the mangaka and editors in Bakuman are actually based on their real life counterparts.
Now allow me address some concerns you may have. If the words “14 year old students” made your blood boil and your eyes roll back into your head from the amount of high school anime there already is, fear not! Over the 75 episodes, Mashiro and Takagi do grow from high school to college and beyond. However, the school setting is used mostly for the first couple of episodes and then is never a focus afterwards. There are no Ecchi hijinks, no ridiculous female bodies for titillation. There’s no Moe, no Kawaii overload. No Loli characters running around pretending to be adults. The relationships are done maturely, with very little of the cringe worthy lack-of-communication drama that other romances might have. Bakuman treats its characters with respect and portrays them as the adults that they are.
Unfortunately, not a lot of time and development is given to Miho. This is somewhat understandable given her promise with Mashiro, but it would have been nice to see more of her journey to become a Seiyuu/Voice Actor. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of bad things I can say about Bakuman. The story and characters are excellent with just the right amount of drama and comedy to stay balanced. The romance isn’t as heavy as other specifically romance anime, but it’s spiced in at good points and reminds us of the ultimate goal. The twists and turns Mashiro and Takagi must maneuver to become successful mangaka are engrossing. You might even learn a thing or two about manga, either the creation or the business side or even both! Bakuman is a superb show that has flown under the radar and deserves a little more attention.